Tag Archives: Giveaway

2011 The Year In Reading–Part One

(hey, don’t forget the giveaway for a FREE amazon giftcard; see previous posts)

In some ways, it wasn’t the greatest reading year.  Wordamour read the lowest number of books she’s read read since she started keeping track, a lonely 25.

But inn true American fashion, she’s got something to blame for this.  Her NookColor.

Which sounds like a contradiction.  An e-reader resulting in reading fewer books?

Let Wordamour explain.

First of all, Wordamour loves her NookColor.  In many ways it has enabled her to do more reading, especially in bed, than she’s been able to for years.  You see, Wordamour’s husband is an extremely light, fitful sleeper.  In fact, if there was a contest between Wordamour’s husband and the Princess,  of “The Princess and the Pea Fame,” Wordamour’s husband would probably win.  After all, how many people do you know can be awakened by the sound of the whispery clicks of an Ipod wheel?  All kidding aside, when you love a light, fitful sleeper you become almost as invested in their getting that elusive good night’s sleep as they are.

And that means giving up reading in bed longer than they do. Because when it’s lights out, it’s light’s out, folks.

Until the NookColor.  Because the Nook screen is backlit and when turned just so, the light doesn’t seem to keep Mr. Wordamour awake.

Hallelujah.  Reading in bed again after 19 years going without.  Because Wordamour LOVES reading in bed.

So why isn’t the reading list longer, especially considering the fact that she received the NookColor as an early birthday present in January 2011?

One word.

You see, soon after receiving the Nook, Wordamour discovered the Pulse App, a free app that automatically downloads all the news and essays of the day from your favorite sources: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Salon, as well as sources of its own into which it curates top technology news, top design news, top health news.  You get the picture.

So you can enjoy all this reading on a device that fits between your hands and enables you to cuddle in bed next to said light sleeper while he remains in that coveted dreamland.

Paradise.   Warm feet, happy partner, the New York Times and you don’t even have to worry about how you’re going to manage those huge pages or keep newsprint off the sheets.

For a long time, it was all about the Pulse App.  Wordamour actually looked forward to getting in bed and clicking on the little “P” icon, it was like phoning an illicit lover (not that Wordamour–or anyone willing to give up 19 years of reading in bed for her partner’s happiness– would know anything about that) or openly reading Good Housekeeping in a gym full of academics, a little risky, a little edgy.

But after awhile, the newness wore off.  Wordamour still reads Pulse regularly but she’s learned how to scroll through quickly and read only the most interesting articles and essays (instead of the very latest on Mit Romney’s efforts to rustle up a personality) so she can move along to the book at hand.

Which means, hopefully, 2012 will be a better year for books.  Unless someone invents an even more distracting app.  Wordamour isn’t even going to imagine what that might be.

Bye for now y’all until 2011 The Year In Reading–Part Deux, in which you actually get to see the list.


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Naming your characters. . .

(Don’t forget the amazon card giveway in the last post.)

My oldest son reads fan fiction obsessively and occasionally likes to write it.  Recently, he was wondering how writers name their characters.  He shared a few of his techniques with me and I was impressed–he looks up websites that have meanings for names and chooses based on that, pretty good for a fifteen year old (his parent’s son?).  If the name is in another language (Japanese, in his case) he puts English words into Google translate and sees how they come out in that language.  And he makes sure they’re gender-appropriate.

Part of my recent novel takes place in Germany in the first half of the last century, so websites providing common German names during that time were a great boon for me.  Actually, the web proved invaluable for me in the accuracy of that novel, which I’ll discuss in another post.

As Lynn, my linguist friend, will attest, naming is powerful.  How about you?  How do you name your characters?


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Today’s the Day! And a Giveaway–

Yep.  Today’s the day that Rethinking Creative Writing officially debuts in hard copy.  It’s been available in e-book form since May and the paperback actually pre-premiered at the NAWE (National Association of Writer’s in Education) conference in London in November.

Advance word has been good nationally and internationally; check out the reviews in the page on this blog, as well as the reviews on Goodreads.  But today is the first day the book becomes available to order on say, Amazon.

So I’m thinking a contest may be in order.  I’m liking the reviews on Goodreads but I’d like to see some on Amazon and even Barnes and Noble.  A shout out on your blog would be good too, and hey, if you want to interview me on your blog, I’m all for that as well.

But right now, let’s focus on the reviews. Anyone who either:

reads and then post a review of Rethinking Creative Writing on Amazon or Barnes and Noble OR

reads and then posts a review of Rethinking Creative Writing on her or his blog

by January 31 will be entered into a drawing for one of two $25 amazon.com gift certificates (those who have already done this (Erika Dreifus, Mike Rush) will also be entered).  Just send me a copy of the link with your contact info. You get an entry for every time the review appears.

I’ll announce the winners February 1.

Bye (for now) y’all,


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Flashlight Memories: A Real Treat

I have a short essay, “The Library: It’s a Family Thing,” in this wonderful new book: Flashlight Memories, which is all about people’s early experiences with reading and books, otherwise known in academia as “literacy autobiographies” or “literacy narratives.”  Let me tell you, identifying and writing about where your love of literacy comes from can be a very powerful thing.

And let me tell you, I am one sucker for a good literacy narrative, so I love curling up with these reading memoirs as a reward at the end of a long, stressful day.  Memoirs like the one from the woman whose mother didn’t understand her longing to read in bed at night, who didn’t really understand her daughter’s longing to read period, but whose truck-driver grandfather encouraged her by secretly giving her a flashlight and an apply to snack on while she read, then secretly provided her with batteries and reading snacks for the rest of her childhood.  The stories are wonderfully written, not treacly, just good stories.

So what about you?  What’s your literacy story?

Post it in the comments section by May 15.  I’ll do a drawing May 15 and send a copy of Flashlight Memories to the winner!

Bye y’all,


PS  My essay concerns my mother’s childhood reading and library habit; the kicker is, that picture on the front really could have been her as a child.

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Something to be Happy About, More About Saving the Writing Project and the Giveaway

Jason Pinter has a terrific essay in the Huffington Post about why we should be optimistic about publishing here. Read it and grin!

The National Writing Project has put out a web resource for any of us who want to continue lobbying congress to keep it in the budget. You can find it here.

Several of you have written me to let me know you’ve written your legislators. Yet another thing for me to be happy about! But there’s still time to write and enter the drawing for a hardcover copy of Writing to Change the World.

I’ll have two drawings: one on February 28 and one on March 18. The February 28 drawing will have two winners (the early bird gets the book); while the March 18 drawing will be for the last copy.
So you still have time. Keep writing those letters, emails and faxes and making those phone calls! And if you’re new to the crisis, you can read about it here.

Bye y’all,

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The National Writing Project needs your help! And a giveaway!

You have all heard me write about my love for the National Writing Project, one of the most successful educational reform organizations in the US, a site that honors teachers, and students, enriches their lives in teaching, improves literacy education (not to mention test scores) and, crucially, keeps many fantastic teachers in the profession who are disheartened and on the verge of leaving.

Well, the National Writing Project, which includes the Great Bear Writing Project which I direct, is in jeopardy and needs your help.

The current administration has proposed that funding for the NWP be consolidated with that of five other literacy programs under a new competitive program (sound familiar, Race to the Top?).

At the very least this would mean, starting with Fall 2011, ZERO direct funding for the National Writing Project network and NO funding for any local site in a state that chose not to compete or was unsuccessful in competing for this funding.

In other words, the National Writing Project and the Great Bear Writing Project as we all know it could completely disappear.

Fear not. The government threatened to do this very same thing about 10 years ago. The NWP was looking at EXCTINCTION. But guess what? People came OUT OF THE WOODWORK to protest this proposition. They wrote letters, emailed and called their legislators to urge them to support direct funding of the writing project. They encouraged their significant others, friends, administrators and parents to do the same. Legislative assistants all over Washington wondered, “Who are all these people and why do they care so much about the National Writing Project?”

But it worked. We saved the National Writing Project!
Unfortunately, we need your help again.

At the bottom is a letter you can use to email your legislators about saving the writing project. All you need to do is copy and paste it into a snail mail letter or an email to send to your senators and representatives in Washington. Or, you could use it to call them, asking for your support.

You can just cut and paste the letter as is with your signature—this would be a HUGE contribution. But if the Great Bear Writing Project has had a personal impact on you, it would be wonderful if you took the time to add your story to the letter. As we all know at the Writing Project, STORIES MATTER!

You can find all the information you need to contact your US representative here and your US senators here.

Anyone who writes or calls and emails me at stephv@uca.edu to tell me (tell me who you contacted and when) will be entered in a drawing to win one of three hardcover copies of Mary Pipher’s wonderful bookWriting to Change the World. Appropriate, don’t you think?

We can do it again. We can save the National Writing Project!!

Bye, y’all,

I am writing to urge you to support the National Writing Project, one of oldest and most successful school reform programs in education, as it faces losing its federal funding.
The NWP, a proven, highly successful national infrastructure, is currently at risk as a result of the administration’s proposed strategy to consolidate it with five other literacy programs which would only offer funding to state agencies competing for it with new, unproven programs.
The National Writing Project has a thirty year program of success in improving literacy among students by profoundly supporting the professional development of their teachers.
Specifically, direct funding for the National Writing Project supports:
1. The national goal of helping students graduate prepared for college and career-ready;
2. Tens of thousands of teachers prepared to serve as a professional development resource to their colleagues and local schools;
3. A national improvement and reform infrastructure with demonstrated practices that support the success of local writing projects sites in providing high-quality professional development to local schools.
4. National programs and initiatives that extent and strengthen the work of local sites and that support site leaders in enhancing their work and sharing knowledge across the network.
The National Writing Project accomplishes all of this because it is a highly developed and effective national infrastructure that includes broad reach, local usability and established quality. Without direct funding, the infrastructure of this crucial program is in jeopardy.

Thank you for your time and your support.


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BOTD, and Giveaway Winners


Unaccustomed Earth, a collection of stories and a novella  (the latter worth the weight of the whole stellar collection) by Jhumpa Lahiri, made several top ten lists this year, including the New York Times (read what they said here).  The laurels are piling up with good reason.  A longtime fan of short stories, my interest in them had waned over the past few years.  While the ones I read weren’t bad, per se, many of them seeemed, well, a bit precious.  And then along came Unaccustomed Earth.  And my faith in the form was reborn.

We have some winners for the Book Giveaway to announce  If I don’t have your address (Cindi, don’t worry, I have yours) please email it to me at stephv@uca.edu post haste.  Drawn by my youngest son who has been needing something to do since we’ve been housebound by an ice storm all day, they are:

Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture Deb

Scholastic Books Children’s Illustrator Calendar Deb

Scholastic Books Children’s Illustrator Calendar Oztegake–are you out there Oztegake?

PermaBound Children’s Books Calendar Monda Fason

Get Crafty Poster Cindy Hoppes

Congratulations to all the winners and

Bye ya’ll



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BOTD: Anything by Adam Gopnik


Witty, moving, compelling.  The man writes like an angel.

Good bets for adults,

Through The Children’s GateA memoir of family life in modern New York City, post his family’s return from their Paris stint.  “The Last of the Metrozoids,” is a hauntingly beautiful chapter and as a stand-alone essay, won several awards.

From Paris to the Moon

Memoir of his family’s time in Paris while he was the New Yorker’s correspondent there.  A joy to read.

Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life

(Haven’t read this–not out till January 29 but you can pre-order.  It’s going to the top of my birthday wish list!)

Best American Essays 2008

He didn’t write this, he edited it, selecting the essays.  You can trust his judgement.

For Children:

The King in the Window.

Don’t forget the giveaway. Five days left to post!!!!!!!!!

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Introducing: Books TO Buy (BTB)

I’ve been thinking, since I last exhorted everyone to buy books, and since a gaggle of publishers recently gifted me with a pile o’ book swag (see recent best book fair ever’ post) , AND since now Simon and Schuster, as well as Random House, are supposedly laying off a crowd of people, I thought I would do my part to an industry I love by recommending as many books as I could for purchase between now and Christmas.

Today’s book? ’07 Newbery Honor winner  Elijah of Buxton </a>by Christopher Paul Curtis, the author of The Watson’s Go to Birmingham 1963 (Newberry Honor) and Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery WINNER).  Buxton is a settlement of free slaves up in Canada, just north of Detroit, in the 19th century and Elijah, the main character, is the first baby born there.   A tweenager in this book, he’s by turns funny and touching as are a whole host of other characters.  Frederick Douglass even makes an appearance–sort of, but I can’t tell you how, you have to read the book.

I just paid for it in hardcover but just found out that Scholastic is also offering it in paperback, so it must be available that way, somehow.  Anyway, it’s the perfect gift for the tweener or teenager in your life, or even the adult who likes these kinds of stories, funny, sweet, with some history thrown effortlessly.  Word has it that Christopher Paul Curtis was once a line worker at a factory in Detroit and this fact impresses me no end.  Talk about life experience.  Probably one of the reason’s why the guy’s such a wonderful writer.

So Elijah of Buxton.  My first recommendation.  Buy it, y’all, before they make it into a movie, which you know won’t be as good as the book.

By y’all,

PS Don’t forget about the giveaway. Post between now and Dec. 15 will be entered in a draw.

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Best Book Fair EVER and a GIVEAWAY


I blogged about this last year, but I think it’s entirely possible that the NCTE Bookfair may be the closest to heaven on earth that a wordamour can get.  Though I was looking forward to it, I was fully prepared for this year to be a little more scaled down due to the economy.  Much to my suprise, it was the BEST BOOK FAIR EVER.  The hottest items this year?  Graphic novels galore.   Good thing we drove this year and I brought an extra suitcase!

Check out my swag:


 And the shoulder burn/badge of honor I got from schlepping about twenty five pounds worth of books around for three hours.

And the crowds. . .


What does all this mean, dear readers?  A December giveaway.  Anyone who comments on my blog between December 1 and December 15 will be entered into a drawing for one of the following:

Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture in Hardcover

A 2009 Scholastic Books Children’s Book Calendar featuring Children’s Illustrators (we have two)

A 2009 Perma Bound Children’s Book Calendar

A “Get Crafty” Poster promoting lots of new, hip crafts books.

I’ll do the drawing December 16 and mail the prizes to get there for Christmas!

 Stay tuned for the giveaway and book fair part two, coming soon!

Bye y’all,

SV reporting from book bliss. . .

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